Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions

I have raised on a number of occasions in the House the value and importance of the hospice movement and the enormous public support it enjoys from many volunteers and the public generally who fund and contribute to hospices. In particular, I refer to Marymount in Cork, Blanchardstown, Raheny, Galway Hospice and the mid-west hospice in Milford, Co. Limerick. They are continually being disadvantaged by Government policy and left in unsustainable positions in terms of funding, recruitment and retention. The recent Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, agreement worsens their position and creates an unsustainable funding pathway for them to retain and recruit staff because essentially it breaks the historic link these hospices had with their HSE employees and confirms a two-tier workforce in perpetuity. The agreement covers only those who worked in the hospices at the time the FEMPI legislation was introduced. New people coming in are not covered. There is no retrospection.

The entire approach of Government for the past year and a half has been as mean-spirited as one can get towards these hospices. It is a slap in the face to the thousands of volunteers who support them and to the public who fundraise for them. It flies in the face of the national palliative care strategy, which the Government announced with fanfare last year. It is also contrary to the policies of Sláintecare, which recommends full integration of palliative care with acute hospital care within the health service. Hospices are an essential part of our health service; they are not an ancillary service. The Government's approach to pay policy has been to continue to treat them as an ancillary service. They provide community care, home care packages and vital interventions at critical parts of a person's journey with cancer or other serious illnesses. Their model is the one we should aspire to for other areas of care within our health services. They are enormously important in alleviating pressures on acute services.

I met with representatives of Marymount Hospice yesterday. It costs approximately €20 million to run it on current funding, some €3 million of which is raised by the citizens of Cork and the surrounding region. The same can be said of Milford, Galway, Blanchardstown and Raheny, yet they are treated in a discriminatory manner by the Government, which must stop. In Marymount's case, as the people to whom I spoke made clear, they had to fund the pay restoration under the national agreement, which cost €277,000 in 2017, €562,000 to date this year and is expected to cost €798,000 for the full year. They told me they cannot afford to deliver the current quantum of services. Decisions are under consideration and review about cuts to services. They had to cancel community visits to people and they are considering closing specialist palliative care beds in the hospice, which could happen as early as next January.

Is it not time to treat these hospices as essential parts of our health service, as other hospitals and health institutions are, and transition them to section 38 agencies in order that they can enjoy the same payscales as everybody else within the HSE?

I acknowledge that the Deputy has raised the importance and value of our hospices and the hospice movement on many occasions. He often mentions Marymount, which he knows well, and St. Francis Hospice in Blanchardstown and Raheny, which I know well as a constituency Deputy. We have seen enormous improvements in recent years in end-of-life care and palliative care, ensuring more people die in a hospice or at home than in a hospital. This means that, in general, people who are in their final few days or weeks can pass away with dignity and comfort, managed in a pain-free environment, in a way that is much more difficult to do in a busy hospital. Those improvements will continue and new hospitals are being provided in Wicklow and Castlebar, for example. There are also plans to develop palliative care in Drogheda and Waterford as well as the midlands, should we be able to come to an agreement among the different counties on an appropriate site.

As the Deputy mentioned, Sláíntecare proposes that palliative care become universal, but it does not specifically propose that it be taken into the public sector as a section 38 agency. Rather, it proposes that it be universal. When I asked the Sláintecare team what that means, it said that it should be provided in all parts of the country because it is not now, or at least not to the extent that it is in other parts. There has been much Government support for hospices in recent years, such as for St. Francis Hospice, to which the Deputy referred, where the land by the Government through my predecessor, the late Deputy Brian Lenihan, while the equipment and staffing were provided by this Government when we came to office.

The agreement to which the Deputy refers was brokered at the WRC. It acknowledges there is a difference between section 39 and section 38 bodies, as he will understand. The difference is that section 39 bodies are typically charities, private institutions and, in some cases, companies. They are not part of the public service and they are not owned by the public. The land and the buildings are not owned by the public, and nor are the pension liabilities or the debts. If some bodies want to move their classification from section 39 to section 38, we can consider and talk about that, but there will also be consequences to that, namely, relating to ownership, legacy pension liabilities, legacy debts, control, membership of boards and so on. These matters would have to be resolved. If some section 39 bodies are willing to give up some or all of their independence and transfer their lands and ownerships in return for becoming part of the public service, that is the type of thing we could discuss. The board of each individual section 39 body, however, would have to decide for itself that it wants to go down that road and it would have to be negotiated.

Words come cheap from Government. During the budget talks, the Taoiseach set his face against any consideration of bringing those agencies under section 38. He said it was not even being considered. He can make all the announcements he likes, such as the palliative care strategy or Sláintecare, but they mean nothing in the real world. When one comes face to face with the financial controllers of these institutions, who are trying their best and have been moderate in their response, it is clear that the Taoiseach does not value them.

He says he does. I get no pleasure in saying this but he does not value them, because if he did, he would not treat them as he does. He mentioned Wicklow. That will come in under Our Lady's Hospice in Harold's Cross. That means that it will be fully HSE aligned. The remaining hospices I mentioned will be further discriminated against. There will be a HSE hospice network while those in Cork, Limerick, Galway, Blanchardstown will be continually disadvantaged by the Government. The WRC agreement is a cover operation. The unions look after their members, which is their job. The Government gets to frustrate the whole thing for a year and a half and the Taoiseach can stand here and say that the Government has an agreement. In reality, behind the scenes, this puts an unsustainable strain on the hospices I mentioned. It is time for the nice words to end. People are no longer interested in the announcements that generate photo opportunities or the nice words that placate them in their daily duties.

I call on the Taoiseach to respond. The Deputy has exceeded the time.

Marymount Hospice is losing staff because of this arrangement.

I call on the Taoiseach to respond.

It has lost 11. The managers are cancelling community visits as we speak. They have been restrained up to now but this is not sustainable. I do not want the Taoiseach to say we can talk about it.

I call on the Taoiseach to respond.

These hospices need to be sorted out. They are essential. I have been on about this for the past year but my comments have fallen on deaf ears from the Government.

I call the Taoiseach to respond, please. I must have some control on the House and I must also think of backbenchers. While the topic is important, I must implement the rules and regulations.

It is welcome that we have a WRC agreement on pay. Negotiations ran for many months and we should welcome that thanks to the commission's work, with the co-operation of the unions and the Government's work, that there is now an agreement that provides for pay restoration for staff in section 39 bodies.

That should not be dismissed out of hand. It was welcome.

I am not interested in platitudes either. I do not have the figures before me but I will dig them out.

It is being done. Midford Hospice has gone from 70% to 64%. The Government has reduced its contribution.

The increase in budgets for section 39 organisations compared to the HSE organisations has been greater over the past three years. I will produce those figures.

No, the Government has reduced its contribution to their revenue.

The Taoiseach to speak without interruption.

The Deputy always interrupts when he hears the facts. I may be totally wrong, but I am not aware of any section 39 body that has asked to be taken over by the HSE and to be nationalised. If there are any that are willing to do that, we are willing to consider it.

However, it must be done properly. We cannot have a repeat of what happened with the voluntary bodies. If they want to be taken over, the ownership and the assets must be handed over as well.

The programme "Whistleblower" was broadcast last night on RTÉ television. It illustrated again in some detail the horrific treatment of Maurice McCabe for daring to speak out about Garda malpractice in the Cavan Monaghan division. We are agreed that Maurice is a good and honourable man of incredible strength. He, his wife, Lorraine, and their family deserve not only our support and solidarity but also our gratitude. For daring to speak out and for putting his head above the parapet, Maurice was smeared and bullied by fellow members of An Garda Síochána. He was the subject of the most despicable type of character assassination imaginable. That is a fact. The Charleton tribunal found that Maurice was "repulsively denigrated" for being nothing more than a good citizen and police officer. The tribunal also established that the then Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, undertook a most disgraceful attack on Maurice, aided and abetted by his press officer, Dave Taylor.

Against that backdrop, Maurice McCabe is justifiably pursuing legal action against the State and Maurice Callinan. However, it has emerged in recent days that the State will pay Mr. Callinan's legal fees, using taxpayer's money, which is outrageous. Martin Callinan is a man who went around telling people falsely and without foundation that Maurice McCabe was a child sex abuser who should not be trusted.

At the weekend the Taoiseach stated: "As a former State employee who is being sued in the course of his work it is norm for the State to offer representation...". However, I put it to the Taoiseach that this is not a normal case. Mr. Callinan has, of course, every right to defend himself in court but in this case, which is being taken by the person he repulsively denigrated, he should not get one red cent of State money. Setting out to destroy Maurice McCabe was his doing and he should face the consequences of his actions. The reputation of An Garda Síochána, as we all know, was deeply damaged by this episode. For the State to now come to Mr. Callinan's aid by way of providing for his legal fees is simply not acceptable.

The decision taken by the acting Commissioner, Mr. Ó Cualáin, to recommend, under the Garda Síochána Act, that a defence be funded by the State was a decision taken before the tribunal had concluded and before it had found so heavily against Martin Callinan.

The State has already failed Maurice McCabe on numerous occasions and now it looks set to support the individual who went to extraordinary lengths to destroy his character. I want the Taoiseach to state categorically here this afternoon that this will not be the case. I want him to ensure that Mr. Callinan funds his own legal defence.

First, once again, I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge Maurice McCabe, the enormous service he has done to this country and his honesty and decency. As I said in the past, I believe he is and was a distinguished member of the Garda and a good example of the kind of person we want to have in our police force.

When it comes to what we do next, I believe the most important thing is that we do right by Maurice McCabe and his wife, Lorraine, even if that is coming rather late in the day. Some people will have seen the programme on RTE television last night and for many people who have not met Maurice McCabe and do not know him this may have been the first time they had a chance to hear his voice and understand what he, his wife and family went through for nearly a decade merely for telling the truth and merely for having the courage to expose and stand up to wrongdoing and malfeasance in the organisation, for which he worked, and how he was treated not just in some cases by senior people in the Garda but also by his peers. It is really sad to see that in our public service, when somebody in a public service position points out what is wrong and their own peers, instead of supporting them, turn on them. That was really sad to see.

The Deputy is correct to say that this is not a normal case. It is not. The decision to offer State representation to the former Commissioner, Mr. Callinan, was made in July. That was prior to the report of the disclosures tribunal and was done in accordance with section 48 of the Garda Síochána Act. We now have a tribunal of inquiry established by this House and that tribunal of inquiry has made findings. That allows us to review the position, and the position is being reviewed at the moment.

It is important to say that the fact the State is offering and providing legal representation to the former Commissioner, Mr. Callinan, does not mean the State will pay for the defence or even necessarily that there will be a defence. I would like to see this case settled, and I hope it can be settled to the satisfaction of Maurice and Lorraine McCabe sooner rather than later. I have also asked the Attorney General to advise the Government and to give us legal advice on whether we would be in a position to pursue both the former Commissioner, Mr. Callinan, and also Mr. Taylor for a contribution to any damages that may be paid. The Deputy will also be aware that it is open to Mr. Justice Charleton, as head of the tribunal, to pursue a similar process in respect of tribunal costs should he feel those witnesses, or any witnesses, did not fully co-operate with the tribunal.

I thank the Taoiseach for that answer. I very much hope we can get clarity and finality on these matters.

We are agreed that this is not a normal case. In fact, it is exceptional. We are agreed that Charleton found against Martin Callinan and that the tribunal's report has been accepted by the State. We are also agreed that it would be a contradiction in terms unthinkable for the State, on Mr. Callinan’s behalf, to enter any form of defence. That simply would not make any sense at all.

The Taoiseach said this matter is being reviewed, which I welcome. When will we have the outcome of that review? When will we know for certain that not a red cent of taxpayers’ money will be used to defend Mr. Callinan? If this case is settled - I agree with the Taoiseach that it ought to be and speedily - will Mr. Callinan and others be pursued for costs?

Until we receive the legal advice from the Attorney General and others, I cannot answer the question. I would like to be able to answer it as soon as possible. I do not want to have the Government take action without knowing what we can do legally. We do not want to find ourselves costing the taxpayer even more money by making a decision that might appear to be the right one but without having done the correct analysis first.

The Minister for Justice and Equality met Sergeant McCabe and his wife to apologise in person on behalf of the State for the manner in which he was treated. The new Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, has done the same.

In accordance with section 48 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Minister, on the recommendation of the then Garda Commissioner, approved to grant State representation to Mr. Callinan for the purpose of that case. That was done in July before the tribunal reported. He, along with all other parties in that action, is currently represented by the Chief State Solicitor's office. It is important to say on the record of the Dáil that State representation does not constitute an undertaking or a grant of indemnity. That has never been granted. Nor does the granting of representation imply that the case is going to be defended. It just means that the party is legally represented.

Perhaps the Minister for Justice and Equality will come to the House either later today or tomorrow to tease out those matters in some detail.

I want to raise a different issue, namely, the gap between the earnings of men and women, which worsened from 12% in 2002 to 14% according to the most recent figures from the Central Statistics Office, CSO. That means women are working for more than a month free of charge compared to men annually. One of the great benefits of joining the European Union was a requirement of equal pay for equal work, as well as the abolition of the naked bias, such as the law which required women to leave the public service on marriage. We brought in equal pay legislation in 1974 - a long time ago - but we still await pay parity. In the past, this was explained by differences in qualifications between men and women. Today, however, significantly more young women than men have third-level qualifications. Previously, we might have explained that the pay gap happened because many women stopped working while their children were in school. This is no longer the case for a great number of families.

There is a gender difference in the professions taken up by men and women which, in turn, might explain some of the differences in pay. There is a question, however, about whether we value women’s work as much as we do that of men. There is a real question as to whether men and women are being paid equally for the same work.

The Labour Party has progressed legislation through all Stages in the Seanad for the mandatory reporting by larger companies of the levels of pay by gender. The Government has promised its own legislation in this area but it has not been delivered. We are happy to work with the Government through all Dáil Stages to ensure this legislation can be swiftly enacted into law. We know mandatory reporting has worked in other countries and we believe it will work here. In some cases, companies may not even be aware of the extent of the wage differences in their own workforce. Ignorance is no excuse, however. The legislation which the Labour Party has put forward would remove that excuse.

Does the Government agree that a 14% gender pay gap is both unacceptable and unsustainable? Will it undertake to support the Labour Party's legislation, which has already been passed by the Seanad, and help it through the Dáil as the swiftest mechanism to address this important issue?

The Government accepts that the gender pay gap of 14% is unacceptable, unfair and a hallmark of gender inequality in our society. The Deputy will also be aware that such pay gaps are not unique to Ireland and exist across the developed world, including, even, very progressive Nordic countries which have larger gender pay gaps than Ireland. However, that does not make it in any way acceptable. Equal pay for equal work was introduced in 1974 as a consequence of European law and it has made a real difference. More than 30 years later, however, we continue to have a gender pay gap for multiple reasons. One reason is that more women work on a part-time basis than men, which is often because women are still expected to bear the greater burden of caring in society, including caring for children and older people, and are likely to work part-time as a result. That is not something that is simple to change. It can be changed, however, by providing more subsidised childcare, as we are doing, and by providing paternity benefit to men so that more men take up caring roles. That is one of the things that has to change.

Another issue is, of course, gender bias in promotions. I attended the National Gallery yesterday with the Minister of State, Deputy Mitchell O'Connor, for the launch of the actions we are taking in the higher education sector. This is just one example. While approximately 50% of the lecturers in our universities and institutes of technology are female, it is only 25% when one gets up to the professor level. It is evident that we need to put accelerators in place so that more women are promoted and in that way help to close the gender pay gap. The Deputy will be aware of the decisions we made in that regard yesterday. They are very progressive, albeit controversial in parts. On 26 June last, we approved the general scheme of the gender pay gap information Bill. The Joint Committee on Justice and Equality will carry out pre-legislative scrutiny on the general scheme on 21 November. That is in only eight days' time. I appeal to all parties in the House to get that scrutiny done quickly and before the end of the year so that we can proceed to legislate.

That the gap in other countries is worse is, the Taoiseach says, no excuse and yet he uses it as an excuse. We have a vehicle in the Bill passed by the Seanad. We can pass it here readily. The notion that we will start a new Bill with pre-legislative scrutiny in a couple of weeks' time with no prospect of enactment in the current calendar year makes a nonsense of new politics. If the Government is serious about addressing the issue, it will surely not matter whether the Bill comes from the Labour Party or is drafted by Government. There was no fundamental issue with the legislation as it passed through the Seanad and, in fact, a promise to support it was made. Why will the Taoiseach not simply address this issue if he agrees that it is one of critical importance and that gender-biased pay is unacceptable? Let us start the process by shining a light on companies' pay bills and determine how exactly they fare in gender-focused pay terms. I ask the Taoiseach again to simply accept the legislation. If he wants to amend it on Committee Stage, let us do that but let us also get this done rather than pretend to want to address it while resisting the mechanism for doing so when it is presented.

I was not attempting to offer an excuse. While we have a long way to go, no one can dispute the Government's good record. It has done a great deal in respect of gender equality and advancing the rights and freedoms of women in our society. I mentioned it simply to point out the complexity of the issue. It surprises people to hear that some of the Nordic countries with subsidised childcare and a long-standing history of gender equality and progress have larger gender gaps than Ireland.

That demonstrates the number of factors in play and how what may appear to be solutions at first glance prove not to be so on further examination. I do not wish to engage in a contest with the Labour Party on this matter. Rather, I want the legislation to be passed.

I do not care whether the Government Bill or the Labour Party Bill goes first or who gets credit for it. However, the Government has some difficulties with the Labour Party Bill as it empowers the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to draw up a gender pay gap reporting scheme but leaves the decision on whether to do so at its discretion.

We can change that.

The Labour Party Bill would require many amendments to make it acceptable to the Government, including amendments to the Long and Short Titles. For those reasons, we would rather proceed with the Government Bill.

To change the Title of the Bill is a big barrier.

I am not interested in a contest with the Labour Party over the credit for bringing forward the legislation which will be before the joint Oireachtas committee in eight days' time. Let us get it done.

Pre-legislative scrutiny is not the normal starting point.

Eight months ago, thousands of people took to the streets following the Belfast so-called rugby rape trial. We protested the treatment of the young woman involved at her clothing being passed around the jury. This week, another young woman suffered humiliation during a rape trial in Cork. We cannot comment on the verdict in the case but we need to focus on the lessons. Why has nothing yet been done to stop the routine use of rape myths in trials? How concerned is the Government about the chilling effect this is having on victims coming forward? A barrister told the jury to "look at the way she was dressed", that she was "open to meeting someone" because she was "wearing a thong with a lace front". A 17 year old was put in the dock for her choice of underwear. She was "open to meeting someone": the implication was that she was asking for it.

Women in this country are getting a little bit weary of the routine victim-blaming in Irish courts and the failure of lawmakers in this House to do anything about it. Either the Judiciary believes these rape myths, in which case they should be forced to undergo education - it should not be voluntary - or they are being used to introduce sexist stereotypes which they know exist in society and among juries. I suspect the latter. Recently we have seen clothes, fake tan and even contraception being used to discredit women who have the bravery to go to court. The most recent study by the Rape Crisis Network estimated that, at best, 10% of rapes are ever reported and only one in 40 rapes is appropriately punished. How heroic and what levels of fortitude must one have to pursue a rape trial in this country, particularly when research shows there is less chance of the accused being convicted if the complainant is young, knew the rapist, had consumed any alcohol or drugs or is from a working-class background and up against a well-paid lawyer?

We do not have data in this country because of the lack of funding for an updated Sexual Assault and Violence in Ireland, SAVI, report, but the Trades Union Congress, TUC, in Britain found that 63% of 18 to 24 year olds have experienced sexual harassment at work, as have 69% of hospitality workers and 67% of manual workers. Last week, Google workers effectively took strike action protesting sexual harassment and inequality even though they do not have a union. The #MeToo campaign has to be taken into the workplace and into society. Women and men see the necessity of taking action because they cannot wait for the pace of change being offered by this Parliament. Protests against the conduct of the trial will take place in five cities, including rallies at the Spire in Dublin and on St. Patrick's Street in Cork at 1 p.m. tomorrow.

It might seem embarrassing to show a thong here in this incongruous setting of the Dáil, but the reason I am doing it is, how do you think a rape victim or a woman feels at her underwear being shown in the incongruous setting of a courtroom? When will this Dáil take serious action on the issue of sexual violence?

I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue which is of enormous concern to the Irish public, both men and women. Let there be no doubt that nobody asks to be raped and it is never the fault of the victim.

It does not matter what one wears, where one went, whom one went with or whether one took drugs or alcohol. Nobody who is a victim of sexual violence or rape is ever to blame for the crime committed on them. I believe any defence on those lines is absolutely reprehensible. Let me put that very clearly on the record of this Dáil.

In terms of any individual court cases, the Deputy knows how the courts work. We live in a democracy. This is Parliament. Parliament is separate from the courts. When there is a prosecution, there is a defence. The judge and jury hear all the evidence presented during the trial. The jury comes to a decision on whether there is a conviction and then the judge rules on an appropriate sentence. We cannot interfere in the way individual court cases are conducted. However, I believe we need to examine this matter. A review has been established under the chairmanship of Tom O'Malley, who is a recognised expert in this area. He will look at issues like the evidence offered, the protocols, the practice and the procedure to see whether we can improve how such trials are conducted.

The point is that this Dáil has not taken sexual violence and harassment any way seriously enough, in comparison to the level of anger and outrage that exists in society. We need massive legal changes. We need a discussion about consent throughout the length and breadth of society. The Government could start this process by approving the Provision of Objective Sex Education Bill 2018 immediately. This Bill, which has been proposed by Solidarity, has consent at its core. Will the Taoiseach give a commitment to have compulsory training for the Judiciary and for juries? Provision should also be made for advocates for survivors. If we put the survivor at the centre of this process, we will ensure we do not maintain the current high attrition rate for sexual cases. Most people have to wait two or three years to have their cases heard. All the cuts to the rape crisis centres imposed over the last decade need to be reversed. This will ensure the centres can do the type of research that is necessary. Will the Government set up the specialist Garda units that were apparently dropped, for whatever reason? We know there is a report coming from Tom O'Malley. Change is happening in a piecemeal manner and at a snail's pace, especially in the context of the feminist revolt in society, which is a huge global phenomenon. I encourage people to come to the protest. That is what forces the political establishment to act.

It is important to record what this Oireachtas has done. In the past couple of months, we have passed and enacted new domestic violence legislation and gender-based violence legislation. That will enable us to sign the Istanbul Convention on domestic violence and gender-based violence. In terms of services for the Rape Crisis Network, as the Deputy will be aware, Tusla is the funder of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence services. The budget for such services has been increased to €23.8 million, which represents an increase of €3.4 million from 2016 to 2018. I know that some individual service providers and advocacy bodies have had their funding reduced. Others have had it increased. Overall, there has been an increase in funding for these areas. We have put a significant effort into the whole issue of consent. This has involved workshops with professionals. A particularly big effort has been made in education - in our schools and universities - to make sure those discussions are happening.

Students are having to fund such initiatives themselves. They are not funded by the Government.